May 172024

Talking Heads TributeThe quote attributed to Brian Eno about the Velvet Underground’s first album inspiring everyone who bought it to form a band applies differently to Talking Heads. If you were already starting your band in your parents’ garage or the art school lounge, surrounded (in either case) by the fog of weed, you would surely dream about being Talking Heads.

During a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career, Talking Heads retained and maintained artistic integrity, but sold enough records to establish and keep themselves in the public consciousness and charts. We can all name their biggest songs. They got to work with the business’s best, including Eno and Lee “Scratch” Perry, and create critically acclaimed masterpieces. If you needed to draft in legends from Funkadelic or Nigerian music to get the sound right, you could.

It was not all work. There was the opportunity to hang out, and get high with, the coolest people in the world. Mick Jagger might have been a little too high to interact fully with, but Sid Vicious was unexpectedly sympathetic, and John Martyn was expectedly an asshole. At least you knew personally. Later on, cool young people would be desperate to hang out with you. If you are Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth you would get to do all this with your soulmate and the love of your life. (All of this is well documented in Frantz’s memoir Remain in Love. Recommended.)

The lead singer might be a little, shall we say, self-absorbed. Of course, for an average band, between a third and a fifth of you are planning to be the lead singer, so you would regard your behaviour as an acceptable price for accommodating your genius. The rest of you, as talented and driven as you are, might have to suck it up a little. Your Wikipedia entry is much shorter than that of the lead. You can contemplate the injustice of it all as you take your ocean-going yacht down to your Bahamas holiday home and studio.

You can have side projects when the band is on hiatus. This might allow you to participate in an Oscar-winning soundtrack, or produce your biggest-ever hit records. You can be sought-after producers, further increasing your time in the Caribbean and your musical legacy. And at a certain point in your career you make the greatest concert movie of all time.

Stop Making Sense, directed by Oscar-winner Jonathan Demme, was released in 1984 when the band was at its creative, harmonious best. It is a work of art on several fronts, from the curation of the music from an emerging chrysalis to barnstorming romps, to the building of the set and band. It featured the iconic and meme-worthy “big suit,” which cemented the recording and band in the public consciousness. Forty years after its release, the film company A24 has polished up Stop Making Sense for a new generation, and now they’re celebrating further with the release of a new tribute album, Everybody’s Getting Involved. The range of moods, genres and languages on the album are a real testament to the influence that Talking Heads have.

Everybody’s Getting Involved follows the running order, but not the overall tone, of the film. The original Stop Making Sense was a slow build, which you can do when you are in charge of the whole thing and know how things will turn out. Each artist here has been given one slot to shine, and they have grasped it firmly.  The range of artists who have feelings for, and take inspiration from, the band is incredibly wide and diverse, which talks to the influence that Talking Heads still have. We are not privy to the brief A24 gave the artists, but you could summarize it as “How do the Talking Heads make you feel?”

The highlights of the album are those that encapsulate their feelings most movingly and eloquently. The Linda Lindas, on “Found a Job,” feel that they want to be a CBGB in its heyday in the Bowery. girl in red really wants you to know that her “Girlfriend is Better,” but that she has compulsions and fears. Thinking about David Byrne’s compulsions and fears has helped her express herself. DJ Tunez reminds you that Talking Heads make him feel incredibly cool.   Toro y Moi feel that Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” make them feel funky.  None of them are wrong.  There are beautiful, skillful, poignant highlights throughout. In general, the less well-known, and new, names feel a greater debt than some of the other artists. Not coincidentally, that is where most of the gems are.

Other artists seem to feel that the Talking Heads make them want to make music that sounds like all their other music. This serves to make the band more complicit than inspirational. Talking Heads influenced the current-day output of Miley Cyrus and The National, and so they feel that their entire sound is a tribute to them, so they can give us more of the same.  Never mind. There is so much good stuff here that we can be thankful for.

Everybody’s Getting Involved is out on 17th May on A24 Records.

Everybody’s Getting Involved Track Listing:

01 “Psycho Killer” – Miley Cyrus
02 “Heaven” – The National
03 “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel” – Blondshell
04 “Found A Job” – The Linda Lindas
05 “Slippery People” – Él Mató a un Policía Motorizado
06 “Burning Down The House” – Paramore
07 “Life During Wartime” – Dj Tunez
08 “Making Flippy Floppy” – Teezo Touchdown
09 “Swamp” – Jean Dawson
10 “What A Day That Was” – The Cavemen.
11 “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” – BADBADNOTGOOD (Feat. Norah Jones)
12 “Once In A Lifetime” – Kevin Abstract
13 “Genius Of Love” – Toro y Moi (Feat. Brijean)
14 “Girlfriend Is Better” – girl in red
15 “Take Me To The River” – Lorde
16 “Crosseyed And Painless” – Chicano Batman (Feat. Money Mark)

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